Monday, 27 August 2012

Look at the Shoulder Pads on That

I have an admission.

I buy White Dwarf for the porn.

I rarely, if ever, read the articles - unless it is an army I am interested in, or the Standard Bearer column - mainly because the quality for the writing is so overblown and leaden (not an easy combination to achieve).

But it is nice to lie in the bath, the door locked to keep out the kids, and run my peepers over all those lovely pictures.


Saturday, 25 August 2012

Trial and Error

Wargaming has of late taken a backseat to Airline Manager on Facebook.

I've done bits and pieces of painting, but nothing to justify the description of making progress.

However, the app has given me the necessary excuse to bring up a topic that has been bugging me for ages with regard to gaming in general.

While I was waiting for the flight from Cork to land I went to the the obligatory forums to see if I could find the answer to a minor question I had. And it was no surprise to discover that the forums contained the obligatory guide of how to break the game. And as is the way with these things this guide began with sound advice, i.e. the sort of thing that anybody playing around with the game would find out on their own if they started over tow or three times. Basically the advice was to start with the plane that was the cheapest, fastest, and carried the most passengers - and get a number of them.

What provoked my ire was when I reached the bit of the advice that said 'when you have 150 of these planes'. 150! FFS!

If you are willing to spend several months of your life playing a game, surely it is possible to come up with something more imaginative than just spamming the same plane over and over again?

But more to the point, if you are looking at this advice, in a game that advertises itself as 'Create and Manage Your Own Airline' you would stop yourself and think, 'am I really this dull and boring?' After all, when you decide to play a game in which you run an airline, you surely want 747s, Airbuses, maybe the odd Short Skyvan. I very much doubt you thought, 'I really want 150 Dessault Mercure's' - it is a very good design, it is certainly a useful 'engine' builder, but let's face it there were only 10 of them ever built,

Ok, video games exist is a closed world of arithmatic - so to an extent it is understandable. But this sort of thing really annoys me in the open world of wargaming.


Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Ok, I'm old, and I'm jaded, but I find myself increasingly bemused by the whole Kickstarter thing.

It is practically impossible these days to listen to a podcast without someone going on about the latest hotness on Kickstarter. Of course I am not exactly the target market for much of this stuff, as I am not interested in zombies.


Monday, 20 August 2012

A Bit of a Pounder

I went down the club for the first time in a few weeks and managed to get in a game.

For technical reasons - I've got a new phone and couldn't get the camera to work - there are no pictures to add to history of the Ogres, and the details will be fairly brief.

In short, I mis-deployed, split my force, lost the initiative and allowed myself to be picked off piecemeal. The Maneaters were still there at the end but everything else was either running or dead. Oddly what did most damage to my army was a Stegadon Ancient, which had I opted for my usual set up with two Ironblasters would have been not quite such a problem, and once that had gone, perhaps the Slaan would have been a little less comfortable on his throne dodging cannonballs.

Still much of my downfall was of my own making.

It seems the club has gone campaign crazy.

First there was a Blood in the Badlands campaign. Then there was a 40k campaign, and now there is talk of a campaign set in Ancient Greece. I have nominally put my name down, as the buy in is only one pack of Victrix Hoplites, the trouble is that I have no idea of when I will get the chance to paint them - or indeed if I do want to paint them at all. There is talk of people being ale to borrow their forces.

Still I don't wish to be negative as this is the sort of thing I would like to see more of.

The Russian 6mm project is coming along nicely - I would have some nice pictures of tanks and lorries to show but my bad luck with technology has continued today. I have roughly half od the Russians done, though I am a little torn as to whether to paint the Germans - so I can get some trial games in with the rules - or to make a start on the command squad for the Imperial Guard - as I have joined the Custodes painting challenge and there seems little point in joining a painting challenge, if you don't get round to actually painting.

Speaking of inspiration, my new phone transfered a load of pictures from my google account, which reminded me that at the start of the year it was the Napoleonic Spanish that were floating my boat, and I really must do something more with them. The trouble is I am stuck on a unit of Victrix infantry - I just find the models so uninspiring - which is partly why I am skeptical as to whether I can stand the idea of painting a unit of their Greeks.


Saturday, 18 August 2012

Economical With The Truth

The case of Chapterhouse vs GW drags on.

I haven't been following matters particularly closely, mainly because the case is pretty much cut and dried, and if it is anything other than a defeat for Chapterhouse then there is little point having laws relating to property ownership. One of the points that the Robin Hood brigade have apparently picked up on is the claim that GW have not produced documents requested by the defence to prove they actually do have copyright on the stolen items. Now if Chapterhouse had produced their knock off copies before GW put them in a codex, they might have a point but as it stands Chapterhouse's lawyers are clearly intent on building a case on mitigation. The whole thing resembles a thief breaking into your house, stealing your television, and then claiming that the said item was not yours to steal because you can't produce a receipt.


What interests me more is the a subsidiary argument put forward by the Robin Hood brigade that a victory for Chapterhouse will be good for the hobby because it will generate competition, which in turn will drive down prices and push up quality.

This is standard American economic moronism drawing on the deepest roots of Republicanism (Jeffersonian, not GW Bush) and as it is tenant of religious faith it is not really worth entering into 'debate' in a forum on the matter.... so make room while I pull up the soapbox.

I do wonder on what planet the people who propose such ideas live on, and where they draw their experience to fuel this wisdom.

Leave aside commodity and energy markets (and the fact that inflation rockets in economies in which organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank enforce this doctrine) and just look at the wargames market, as a whole, (something the people making these arguments very rarely do) there is more choice than there has ever been, and that choice is increasing - how much choice do these people want? But the one thing choice has not done has affected the price of models. Indeed if anything the opposite is true. Mainly because wargames is a craft market - and the simplest way to go bust in a craft market is to sell on price.

The other thing that is overlooked is that contrary to the opinion of the interwebz the vast majority of wargamers are not 'engaged' online. Nor I suspect is the case of Chapterhouse vs GW particularly well known outside of a vocal minority. I understand the logic that says it is a waste of time GW releasing the SW wolves last year because everyone that wants them has already bought them from Mr Dandy.

The only problem with this thinking is that it is just plain wrong. Mr Dandy may have sold a few hundred, maybe several thousand, of his rather beautiful models - and made himself a weblebrity via podcasts, and made himself a few bob along the way - but to suggest that Mr Dandy's wolves will ever have any influence on the costs of the product sold by GW is just silly.

The fact is that prices are set based on the level of profit the producer is happy to accept.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Wheel of Fortune

I've got a game at the weekend down the club - 2500 points.

I'm not sure what army I am facing, but I thought I'd try something along the lines of a Giant, a Stonehorn, 2 lots of Mournfang, lots of Leadbelchers and maybe a unit of 18 bulls - or put another way all the stuff I have been wanting to try.

Perhaps more interestingly, certainly for me, is that I have suggested that we try playing secret objectives and some version of Man of Mystery. I would like it further by have strategy cards, but one step at a time. I would like to include all three elements in a narrative campaign that has been swimming around my mind for a few weeks now.

Interestingly Dave Wytek of Garagehammer spoke to Phil Kelly at Chicago Gamesday and in the course of the chat learned that the studio team have experimented with Tarot cards and other things to generate narrative elements within their games. Which perhaps explains why the rule nazis get so upset when the battle reports in White Dwarf don't use the 'proper' rules.

It's odd how the loudest voices in the 'community' - was there ever such a weasel word? - are so at odds with how the game is meant to be played when shouting at the 'community' about how they should be playing the game.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Dog Days

Hello again...

I would love to report that I have been doing tons of stuff in the hobby but I haven't. I was planning to go down the club on Sunday, but I couldn't be arsed. And I have made some lacklustre attempts to do some painting but I have not been particularly inspired.

I blame the weather.

I have read a couple of books - one of the American Civil War and one on the opening stages of Barbarossa. Oh and watched a number of videos on Utube on those topics. I really shouldn't get started on another period, but I am drawn to the conflict, and I very much like the 10mm Pendraken miniatures. I thought I might defer the decision until Fiasco in October, by which time I will have largely caught up on my painting schedule, and I will have the chance to give the figures a good once over.


Thursday, 9 August 2012

I Really Should Read the Camera Instructions

And the 2nd Russian company is finished.

This is a platoon from that company.

Well finished with the proviso that I plan to go back and touch up the bases when I have painted everything in the project - or enough to actually get playing.


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Tyrannies Clash

The 2nd platoon is all but finished for the Russians in the 6mm project.

I am awaiting the order I placed at the weekend with Heroics and Ros, which is mainly German stuff, and in the meantime I plan to work on a few bits and  pieces for the Russians - like snipers, light mortars, MMGs. I am really rather looking forward to getting the forces together and running through the rules. Probably solo to begin with.


I find myself watching the ongoing soap opera of 6th edition with continuing amusement.

One of the strands that of the story that leaves me gasping at the sheer audacity of what is being said, is the way those people who shouted loudest that comp had no play in any game appear to have done a volte face and now not only want comp, but want to change the rules.

They also appear to be having a problem with the whole random thing. Apparently it is absolutely terrible that it is now possible to get a failed charge. It totally ruins the game, apparently, and takes away all the skill, apparently. The irony of this is for years these same people had proposed their scientific theories on list building, min maxing, redundancy etc, surely in all the verbiage surrounding these grand concepts there is something that can used to mitigate the worst excesses of the failed charge? Heck a couple of weeks ago one of the high priests even wrote a blog post on the revolutionary idea of using chaff - being a revolutionary idea it wasn't called chaff, but it was chaff.

Whilst on the subject of the skill factor.

Getting a treble 20 at darts is a skill, knowing the oche is 7' 9 1/4" from the dart board is a a matter of comprehension - much as charges in 5th were a matter of knowing what the rule book says. But then if you are illiterate I suppose reading does seem skillful.

The problem 40k has, that fantasy didn't have with the change to 8th, is the people who poisoned the 40k culture and turned 5th into a rather limited and soulless game do not appear to be jumping ship - in the way that their equivalent's when 8th hit. Which means that 40k runs a very real danger of going down the path of the ETC, where a small group who are so desperate to win - or perhaps not lose - will twist the rules in a desperate effort to remain in control of a game that remains within their narrow parameters of what the game should be.


ps... Nova Open....

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Things That Caught My Eye

I have been doing a little painting but mainly I have been watching historical videos on utube and reading Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson.

Both of these have raised a number of questions with me.

In 1860 the capital worth of the slave population in the US was equivalent to the total GDP of the country. Which explains why 'slave power' was reluctant to yield to the abolitionists demands.

What I don't understand is that given the average cost of a slave was somewhere over $1000, and the average wage of a labourer was about $13 a month (only payable when they are working), with board and lodgings - why people didn't sell the slaves, hire the labour and invest the capital.

Maybe there was a Dead Souls thing going on...

The other thing comes out of the lecture I highlighted yesterday by David M. Glantz.

It is widely said that Kursk was the biggest tank battle in history. Yet Glantz highlights an action in the Kiev campaign in which the Soviets lost 5000 tanks, and committed 3 Tank Armies. I found this helpful as looking at the order's of battle for the period the tank strength of a Soviet platoon was 17 tanks, and a year later a platoon is 10 tanks, which did leave me wondering what happened to the excess.

This forgotten battle reminds me of a snippet I heard on the World Service some years ago about a battle that had occurred in Ethiopia involved some two million men, tanks and aircraft. No details were given, nor did it say who had won. And it didn't make the next bulletin or any other news report.

Oh and I was also intrigued that during the debates to elect a speaker following the Buchanan election, every member of the Congress was armed, as were all the spectators in the gallery and the journalists.


Monday, 6 August 2012

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Kid's Games

My eldest is 4, and has been on at me to play soldiers with him.

It was my own fault really, but a while ago I had a battle between my Ogres and various dinosaurs and monsters. We rolled a few dice and measured a few things, and I managed to salvage my models before the abstraction of combat went over the line into being pounded by a plastic Tyrannosaur.

Since then he's played with my Imperial Guard - broken powersword - looked at my 6mm stuff - T34 has mysteriously disappeared - and keeps asking when am I going to play soldiers with him again.

In an effort to placate him, and also to encourage his interest - after all there are plenty worse things he could be doing than modelling, wargaming and reading about history - I bought him the 1/72nd Airfix Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham figures. Ideally I would have liked to have bought the playset with Nottingham Castle, but a) I couldn't find it and b) have you seen the price of those playsets these days? It is absolutely scandalous. I my day.... ;)


The other day I really wanted to get on with some basing, but I was left in charge of childcare due to the missus having an opticians appointment. So I had the bright idea of breaking out the paints to let the kids have a go at painting the Airfix soldiers. I say kids because my 2 year old has to do everything his big brother does.

It was pleasantly successful. I got all the basing done. They were kept entertained for over an hour. I was particularly impressed with Maid Marion's gold and horse. In fact they took to painting lie natural born geeks, even insisting on eating biscuits between colours.

By the time the missus got back, we had moved onto painting woad designs on our arms.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Suits You Sir

I got my copy of the new version of I Ain't Been Shot Mum a couple of days ago, and I have been working my way through the rules (toddlers make reading a slow process).

It's not often when I am looking through a set of rules that I go, 'that's neat,' or 'I can't wait to try that.' But as I lay in the bath I found myself making such mental exclamations rather often. Which given that the rules are somewhat slim - in a good way - is remarkable.

Ok slim is perhaps a problematic word as it carries an implied value judgement. Put it this way, if you stripped out the examples and the pictures, and the stuff at the back - oh and re sized the pages to an A4 booklet (like what proper wargames rules should be) - the rules would probably be about 15 or 20 pages. Or roughly the size of my favourite rule set General Quarters.

But then the opposite of slim, in rules terms, is bloated.

Don't get me wrong I have no problem with the full colour, wargame porn rules that are the fashion these days. I have no problem with the price - if i didn't want them I wouldn't buy them - and  I don't understand this idiocy about pdfs having to be cheaper than paper, after all I am buying the content of the book not the paper or pixels that the ideas are written on. But I have an admission, I never read the damned things. I try to read the rules, but the damned thing is so heavy, and every time I try to read the rules I get bored at the same damned bit, and I flick through and 'ohhhhh shiny picture'.

I mean I love my 8th edition Warhammer rulebook. I well remember the sunny day that it arrived and the nerderection induced by the ink fumes as I opened it for the first time. And I am still on tablets for the heart condition brought on by opening page 462, but there is no way I am ever going to read the fluff section. There are pages of that monster that have never been the human eye.


One of the things that made me go, 'do I like that,' in Graham Taylor fashion, was that on the outcome of a single throw a tank firing at troops in a building could miss, hit the building and put the wind up 'em, set the building on fire, or destroy the building killing everyone inside.

Still got to paint lots off tiny men before I get to play...


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Story Telling

Narrative gaming is a term that gets bandied about a lot these days.

The term is divisive,  but then narratives generally are.

The narrative that has interested me is the story surrounding Barbarossa, particularly the events surrounding the battles of Kiev and the retreat from Moscow. These events are in a sense intertwined, and the accepted wisdom is that the delay caused by diverting the armour of Army Group Centre to support the battles around Kiev, eventually led to the defeat at the gates of Moscow.

The problem with this narrative is that it makes the assumption that a) the outcome of the battles around Kiev would have gone as wildly in the German's favour as they did with the extra support from Army Group Centre, and b) that they are drawing on an older narrative, namely Napoleon's campaign of 1812.

What is completely overlooked is that the campaign of 1812 was largely unopposed, this was not the case in 1941 - indeed the massive haul of prisoners resulting from the Kiev encirclement was because the Soviets refused to follow the historical example and continued to press the advancing Germans. Though there is an historical parallel that is overlooked. Namely the massed use of cavalry, which in both cases led to a massive problems of supply, which in turn led to problems covering the retreat when the rigors of winter set in.

Something that should also be considered is that all of this needs to be considered in the light of the debates of the 1920's and 30's regarding the use of tanks. The German invasion of the Soviet Union, while on the face of it a success for the proponents of mechanised warfare, highlighted it's deficiencies just as clearly.

What got me thinking about this issue was the narrative of the battle of Moscow.

This is often told from a purely technical standpoint. Zhukov held the T34s in reserve, they had wider tracks that allowed them to operate in the conditions, and supported by the fresh Siberian divisions the superior armour and guns drove back the Germans.

The problem I have with this narrative that it is a figleaf, to mask the problems of supply that the largely infantry based German army had. The German army in the following year was able to overcome the technical issues of the T34, and indeed it is impossible to believe that they had not faced the tank earlier int he campaign. Yet for some reason the tank proved beyond their capabilities in the battle for Moscow.

Of course the issue is something that appeals to wargamers. As a wargame is generally set in a geographically insignificant area of land (perhaps at most representing 10 square miles), and it is only natural for the gamer to pick up on narratives that reinforce their selection of the 'best' units.

But it becomes particularly problematic when gamers pic up on these narratives, filter them through the abstraction of a wargame, and then try to use the muscle memory of their gaming experience to argue historical points.

Of particular interest to me is this newsreel from 1942 about the Russian offensive against Kharkov prior to the German summer offensive that would lead to Stalingrad. 
What interests me is the emphasis placed in the commentary on Germany's allies. Which is theme that comes up again and again when reading histories of the period, but is something that for whatever reason is seemingly ignored.

If you consider the political situation in the Balkans and Southern Europe, the decision to send the armour of Army Group Centre to support the Kiev operation takes on a different significance.

But then there is also a narrative that has it that the Western Allies could not have won without the Russians, which is perhaps true in terms of man power, but that man power would not have done much without the boots, copper, rolling stock, tanks, planes, oil, chemicals, etc supplied by the Western Allies. Nor indeed would the Russians have lasted long had it not been for the British and Commonwealth troops fighting in North Africa to protect the Persian Gulf and keeping the diplomatic pressure on the Turks not to throw their weight against their traditional enemy in the Caucasus.